Motoramic

Why the first Best Buy Geek Squad car was so cool

Justin Hyde
Motoramic

Before it became known as the in-store service arm of Best Buy, the Geek Squad was an independent chain of computer repair shops, founded by 1994 by Robert Stephens, fresh from the University of Minnesota. And before its trademark black-and-white VW Beetles became the icing on its geek cake, founder Stephens had what may have been one of the coolest cars ever used for business.

The French-built Simcas were rare when new in the United States — with odd styling, small size and relative lack of motivation making them less popular than other imports. When he launched Geek Squad, Stephens needed both a car to get around in and advertising, paying $2,200 for this Aronde sedan in 1994. Three years later, he moved to Los Angeles to launch the company's second branch, and the Simca helped build the company's reputatoin. He's preserved it ever since (and made his continued ownership part of the deal when the company later merged with Best Buy), noting it has "seven ashtrays and no seatbelts."

The rest of the first Geek Squad vehicles were just slightly less cool, from an ice cream van painted black to a 1953 Morris Minor and a 1960 Ford Falcon — the car where Stephens learned that a black-and-white paint scheme similar to police cars could stand out without causing legal problems. The fleet helped sales, but Stephens has said the cars were troublesome enough that employees would occasionally answer the phone "Geek Squad Auto Repair."

The restored Simca now rests in Best Buy's headquarters lobby; Stephens left the company in 2012. And if you're hoping to start a business today with a distinctive French vehicle as a calling card, you have a few options — although you might pay a bit more than Stevens did.

Photo: Robert Stephens via Twitter

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